High speed internet at the cottage?

High Speed Internet in Cottage Country

One of the common questions we get asked when showing waterfront properties, “is high speed internet access is available here?”, fortunately in most cases these days the answer is “Yes” but that was not always the case. Fierce competition and new service introductions have led to rapid expansion of high-speed Internet services in cottage country.

When looking at internet services for your cottage there are a few factors to consider;

Speed – the data rate available translates into how fast web pages load or what quality of streaming services are supported. For example, Netflix recommends 3 Mbps for Standard Definition (SD) streaming, 5 Mbps for HD streaming and 15 Mbps for 4K streaming.

Data Caps – How much data transfer (usage) is included in the service plan. Most Internet plans have some form of “cap” on the amount of data you can download or upload. According to Netflix, SD streaming uses about 1 GB (Gigabyte) per hour, HD uses about 3 GB/hour and 4K uses up to 7 GB/hour. If your family watches 4 hours of streaming TV per day, your usage for TV alone would amount to 120 GB, 360 GB or 840 GB per month! Some services offer full speed up to the data cap, then a lower speed after that cap has been exceeded, and others charge for the extra data used.

Latency – is the time it takes to reach a website. This is really only a factor with older satellite-based services as the satellites are up to 35,000 km above the earth and a signal takes about a half second to reach the satellite and return. This delay will make the internet service feel very slow even though the rated speed is considered high. The new Starlink service introduced by SpaceX used low earth orbiting (LEO) satellites that are only 550 km from earth and thus their latency is in the order of a few dozen milli-seconds which is neglectable for most uses.

Price – Internet services can vary widely in price especially if the provider charges for data above the allowed cap. You should also note that some providers offer a promotional price for the first 6 months up to 2 years then the price automatically increases to their regular rate.

Let’s have a more detailed look at some of the cottage country internet services that are currently available.

Fibre Optic Internet – Offer by Bell Canada and Lakeland Networks Fibre Optic Internet is only available in limited areas and usually in or near the larger towns. Both providers are continuing to expand but it is a slow and expensive process. Internet speeds of 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps) and beyond are available to a limited audience for prices ranging from $90/mo to $130/mo with unlimited usage. Generally speaking, if fiber optic internet is available this is the best option.

Starlink Satellite Internet – Offered by SpaceX, Starlink is a Low Earth Satellite (LEO) internet service that covers all of central Ontario. The basic service provides between 50 and 150 Mbps speed and unlimited data for $140/mo plus a one-time fee of $600 for the hardware. You should note that this service requires a fairly open view of the sky to the north-west (tall trees can be a problem). Starlink has a free app for your phone that checks for obstructions that may prevent you from getting reliable service. Generally, the speeds are lower during busy times like evenings.

Bell & Rogers Wireless Home Internet – Both Bell and Rogers offer similar services that operate wirelessly to your property. They both use a different band than what is used for cellular service. Speeds of 25 Mbps and 50 Mbps are offered for about $95/mo and $150/mo respectively. Both providers have data caps set at 450 GB per month and beyond that your speed with drop to 10 Mbps or 20 Mbps depending on your plan. These services require a technician to install the outdoor antenna and indoor WIFI device.

Rogers 5G Home Internet – Rogers recently introduced a home internet service that runs over their 5G wireless cellular network. This service is very similar to their Wireless Home Internet above and offers similar speeds and data caps for $100 or $110/month plus the one-time cost of the cellular/WIFI device.

Bell & Rogers Cellular Internet – Both Bell & Rogers offer data plans for smartphones that can be shared with other devices. By using the “personal hotspot” on a smartphone or tablet you can connect computers, televisions or streaming devices and utilize the data from your phone. Both providers offer unlimited shared plans with up to 150 GB of data. As an example, if two family members were on the same shared 150 GB data plans your data cap would be 300 GB. While these plans are not inexpensive, they can provide internet access in addition to your phone plan. Prices for 150 GB of shareable data at speeds of 25 to 300 Mbps run about $110/mo.

I have only covered the services offered by major carriers. There are a number of other services available from smaller companies in select areas.

Summary & Recommendations

Throughout most of cottage country high speed internet options are available. When viewing properties your smartphone signal level can give a fair indication of available coverage (excluding Fiber & Starlink). That is why I have both Bell and Rogers service on my smartphone.

  1.      If Fiber Optic internet is available to you it provides good value, reliable service and the most consistent speeds.
  1.      Personally, I rate Wireless Home Internet and Starlink Satellite services about the same. While Starlink can provide higher speeds, it is not as consistent as Wireless Home Internet.
  1.      While I have not personally used Rogers 5G Home Internet, it should offer similar service to Wireless Home Internet.
  1.      Cellular Internet can be more expensive and not as convenient as competing options but may work well for those who only spend limited time at their waterfront property and are not heavily reliant on internet services for streaming video.

Note that pricing and service availability were at the time of publishing.

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Posted by Gord Waites on
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